Watersheds and Cities

Integrated watershed management through social participation and long-term vision

The Project

Watersheds and Cities is a project incubation and acceleration model that has operated for over two decades to promote protecting and recovering watersheds that supply water to important cities in Mexico. The project has had the financial and institutional support of the Water Program of the Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte I.A.P. since 2004 and continues with this essential support in its new phase, which runs from 2022 to 2025.

  • Mapa de ubicación de proyectos de Cuencas y Ciudades

    Watershed and Cities project locations map

  • Jardín de cosecha de agua de lluvia

    Rainwater harvesting garden

  • Evento de comunicación con escuelas primarias

    Communication event with elementary schools


Rapid population growth in Mexico's urban centers leads to a continuous increase in water demand. Along with this dynamic, we have witnessed the accelerated deterioration of ecosystems that provide hydro-environmental services (HES), resulting in a decrease in water quality, poor water supply, and the chronic disconnection between water catchment and infiltration areas and urban areas that benefit from hydrological services. In addition, Mexico's watersheds and cities are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly to extreme hydrometeorological events (storms, hurricanes, and periods of drought).

Against this backdrop, since 2001, Watersheds and Cities has been supporting the development of institutional coordination processes to advance watershed and water management in priority regions, the establishment of pilot models for the conservation of ecosystems and landscapes under a watershed approach, and the design and implementation of long-term financial mechanisms.

In the new phase of the project (2022-2025), Watersheds and Cities will incorporate components to respond to the present and future challenges of climate change and improve the water resilience of cities and their associated watersheds through the implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS) with an adaptation approach, the integration of green and gray infrastructure, leveraging public and private investments, and strengthening the technical, institutional and financial capacities of key local stakeholders.

The lines of work that guide the actions of Watersheds and Cities are:

  1. Increase nature-based solutions coverage in watersheds and other urban and suburban areas.
  2. Strengthen the capacities of key actors and decision-makers in the municipalities.
  3. Improve social participation and inter-institutional coordination to implement planning instruments.
  4. Catalyze public and private investments to scale up conservation and climate change adaptation measures.
  5. Follow-up on a learning community for knowledge management.

"Watersheds and Cities: 20 years for the integrated management of watersheds in Mexico". Learn about the contributions and scope of the project in the framework of its twentieth anniversary.



The initiatives comprising Watersheds and Cities have impacted around 3.8 million hectares. The partners have conducted diagnoses, designed integrated watershed management action plans, and deployed communication and awareness campaigns to achieve the active participation of the different sectors and stakeholders. Conservation, restoration, and productive reconversion actions have been established on more than 130,000 hectares; compensation schemes have provided hydro-environmental services on more than 35,000 hectares.

The field deployment of the projects has opened up spaces for the direct participation of the communities in the definition of objectives, the development of activities, and other participatory processes for managing natural resources. Local initiatives have directly benefited more than 16,000 families in 192 communities through their incorporation into sustainable, productive projects, the installation of various eco-technologies, such as biodigesters, water-saving toilets and wood-saving stoves, and 470 rainwater harvesting systems in areas with water shortages or wells contaminated by heavy metals.

Watersheds and Cities V, the new stage of the project, seeks to maintain the environmental services of watersheds and improve water resilience in cities, incorporating Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) approaches. During the first half of 2023, at the basin level, an NbS package was designed with practices aimed at the agricultural sector, with the purpose of reducing erosion and the contribution of sediment to dams. In addition, 41 rainwater harvesting systems, 20 gray water filtration systems, 12 biodigesters, and ten pilot atmospheric water harvesting modules were installed. In the urban area, work was done on designing several pilot projects for green infrastructure (VI) spaces, implementing seven infiltration ridge modules, and creating four rain gardens. To promote the adoption of key EbA and NbS concepts, FMCN, in collaboration with UNEP and project partners, held four workshops under the title “Baseline, Reconnecting Cities with Nature.”

Read the external evaluation of the project.

Learn more about the project:


Donor: Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte, I.A.P.


  • Cervecería de Colima, S.A.
  • Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.
  • U.S. Forest Service